The first thing you notice about Rand is her beaming smile. A first-year University of Wollongong law student, she tells me she got into law for the same reason as many other law students. ‘In Egypt my grades were high,’ she laughed. ‘So I went with the law.’
Rand Faied has a Bachelors degree in Sharia law and Egyptian law from the University of Alzai in Alexandria, Egypt. Despite that, she is redoing her law degree at UOW. After coming to Australia in 2009 - following her graduation - she knew she still wanted to pursue law, despite the difficulties she encountered.
‘When I came to Australia they didn’t recognise it – the Sharia law – because it’s a really different system. They just gave me a year credit, so I need to study three more years. That’s my path you know?’ she said. ‘I can’t change it. I already studied law, I understand the law. I would like to work within the legal frame.’
There were the obvious difficulties, such as the language barrier. ‘I’ve been studying English in Egypt for 14 years, but it was Egyptian English,’ she laughed. ‘It’s really different. I started from the beginning. When I came to Australia I started from level one.’
Having already studied law provided Rand with a foundation of legal jargon, albeit, in Arabic. ‘When I translate them I found that they are very familiar to me - I know that! I understand that!’ she exclaimed. ‘I’m really enjoying studying law. I have a background. So when they say words like constitution… so many legal terms and words that I’m used to them.’
Faied however, also faces the transition from the French-Civil-code-based Egyptian law, towards the Australian English-influenced common law system. ‘It’s really different,’ she said. ‘Even in my studying in Egypt, the Egyptian way to learn - I remember that during my five years study, I went maybe five times to court. Just five times. The practical way was very less than here.
‘I’m first year now, and they give us cases and you have to work it out, and stuff like that, and we haven’t done that in Egypt. For five years studying it was just theoretical. Just theories. Just books and writing.’
Rand acknowledges that there were also the cultural differences between her birthplace in Egypt to life in Australia. ‘First thing I struggled with when I came to Australia was when I was in the aeroplane,’ she said. ‘As it was landing I said “it’s dark, why is it too dark down there?”
Her husband said it was 4am.
‘In Egypt we go shopping at 3 am. It’s never closed, never sleeps, just people everywhere. It’s a busy country, my city Alexandria is really busy. They never sleep, shops everywhere, people everywhere. Here it’s really quiet, at night it’s really dark. No one smiles to me,’ she laughed, ‘It’s really different.’
Faied also faced a transitional period when she began her tertiary education again in Australia. ‘I had a culture shock, that’s normal,’ she said. ‘But I hadn’t faced any discrimination until I went to uni.
‘Especially with the law, there is not so many students from international (background), from other countries, so it’s like just the law, people who are studying law Australian law, are Australian, or from English background.’
‘[In] the beginning, I felt like I was unwelcome. I’m in the wrong place. But I want to study law. It doesn’t matter. But now it’s getting better. They’re used to me,’ she laughed. ‘My feelings are changing and I’m starting to make relationships with the other students and even with my tutors and lecturers.’
Rand exudes energy and positivity – at 27, she’s studying law part-time and is mother to three children under three. ‘It’s really crazy,’ she said. ‘I’m hardly coping with it. Sometimes I’m not good with my studies, sometimes I’m not good with my family, with my kids.’
‘It’s because studying law, it’s hard, it’s not easy. At uni … you need to be a student full time. A full time student just focusing on your studies. Being a mum is really hard to balance.’
However, Faied stresses that this is temporary. ‘It’s just three years. The third year I just have one subject. So it’s not that much. I’ll try to have it [law degree] done as quickly as I can,’ she chuckled. ‘I’m 27 – I want to work!’
The age difference between Rand and her fresh-out-of-high-school classmates is another factor. ‘It’s not good to feel like you’re the oldest one, and they are different,’ she said. ‘I’m from different background, English is my second language. Sometimes I don’t understand what they say. The age gap is almost ten years.’
‘The university here is full of everything, activities, studies, everything, which I can’t enjoy. I just came to my class and go, that’s it. So I was enjoying my university when I was younger. When I had nothing to do and just go with my friends and sit out in the sun, chat and stuff. Now I have so many responsibilities. I run home to cook and prepare and stuff.’
Where does Rand see herself when she graduates? ‘Not sure yet, but I would like to work with the humanitarian organisations,’ she said. ‘My big dream [is] to work with the UN, that’s where I would like to work.’
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